Darren Myers doesn’t look like your typical audio electronics engineer. He also doesn’t sound like a typical audio engineer. A young guy with fresh ideas…maybe they make sense, maybe they don’t…I had an unusual, thought-provoking, and even at times surprising conversation with Darren Myers, Parasound’s Vice President of Research and Development.
See what Myers thinks about the revitalization of Parasound and what he believes is an exciting and expanding future for the entire high end audio industry.
Check out my conversation with the top engineer at Parasound
I don’t want to stereotype anyone, but engineers – in general – are a unique breed. With a multi-decade career in tech, I’ve worked with, and around, a lot of engineers…numbering probably into the hundreds. And I’ve developed a profile that seems to fit the usual characteristics of an audio engineer – at least from my experiences.
What Kind of Image Appears When You Hear the Word ‘Engineer’
When I say the word “engineer,” what kind of image comes to your mind? In my mind, when you’re talking about an engineer with a career in audio, I think of generally an older, mostly male, socially awkward, but steadfastly logical person who tends to be a bit nerdy. They can have an ego – for example, thinking (and articulating) that they know better than users what constitutes a good product.
Well, I’ve had to throw those perceptions out the window. Darren Myers1, Vice President of Research and Development for Parasound, at 35 years old is young, well-spoken, easy-to-talk-to, thoughtful, and able to go well beyond straight-backed logic into the fuzzy realm of emotion, color, feeling, passion, and deep thinking. He is a bit of a new breed of engineer, one that understands that the ears must be used as much as technical testing gear, or circuit diagrams, to determine a better audio product design.
Two Unique Aspects of Darren’s Background
I think there are two unique aspects of Darren’s background experience that are the drivers that define what differentiates him as compared to many other audio engineers. First is that when young (16 years old) Darren was an ardent music enthusiast – and even a musician – with a deep appreciation of both the art and the science of music. Second, that same youth was then exposed to high end audio gear to which he became an enthralled – he says “obsessed” – enthusiast, years before he even considered becoming an engineer. He tells the story of his high end awakening…his first experience…and it was a uniquely sensual one.
When I was about 16 years old, I was really into music. I was playing the guitar in a band and I went over to a friend’s house so we could play guitar together. I walked into the room and stumbled across his father’s stereo system. It was an amazing Wilson Audio system, with all the nicest Audio Research components at the time, a Linn Sondek LP 12 turntable, and a huge subwoofer driven by an independent Krell KSA 100 amp…a really nice system.
I mean, it was out of this world to me. I had never even fathomed audio could be that high end. And so I asked his father, can you play this for me? And he said, of course. What was really fascinating about it was I expected it to be really an auditory experience, but what I experienced was a very visual experience. You know, it was able to make audio, colorful and visual and engaging in a way that I hadn’t ever heard anything like that before.Darren Myers, Parasound Vice President of Research and Development
You Never Forget Your First Time
They say you never forget your first time, and this was clearly his first high end experience. I noticed as we spoke that Myers’2 pace quickened and his tone got higher pitched, as he was clearly relishing the memory. And with that experience, Darren says he became obsessed with high end audio, and has remained so ever since.
Even so, his start was inauspicious. Darren started his college career studying mechanical engineering. It wouldn’t be until his sophomore year before he switched to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) to major in electrical engineering (EE), and only after coming to realize he could make a career out of his passion – high end audio.
Chance Meeting with CEO of Classé Leads to First Engineering Job
Darren tells me that he vigorously applied himself at college – voraciously absorbing as much EE knowledge as possible like a sponge.
“It really clicked that this is what I’m going to do with my life,” Myers told me. “And because I’m so passionate about high end audio, it really lit a fire under me – not only to do well at my studies but also to take in as much information as possible.”
‘You Should Contact Me’
During his last semester, he serendipitously attended a Music Matters event by Audio Advice, a local dealer, which featured a display of Classé products. It was here he met Dave Nauber, CEO of Classé, a high end amplifier company that at that time was part of Bowers & Wilkins. Myers was able to have an extended chat with Nauber who eventually asked him about his plans after college.
“I said I wanted to work at an audio company,” Darren told me. “And he gave me his card and said you should contact me” after graduation. It was a fortuitous meeting and Myers followed through with contacting Nauber. Next thing he knew, he was moving to Montreal as a new Classé junior engineer.
Contributed to Class D Amplifier Design
His first role there was to work on a proprietary Class D amplifier design. It was a project that taught him very much about the complexity of creating a novel amplifier design – the many lessons from which continue to inform his career to this day.
During his time at Classé, Myers also had the opportunity to work on various circuit designs for Bowers & Wilkins models, as well. While B&W is predominantly loudspeakers, some of them, for example subwoofers, have active components. He is quite proud of the work he did updating and refining the design of the crossover network of the brand’s flagship Nautilus speaker system.
However, as I have widely reported on here at Strata-gee, things were starting to get strained at B&W/Classé as it was acquired by Sound United and then Masimo. Darren chose to move on and left the company and moved to Colorado. It was there he met Paul McGowan, founder of PS Audio who brought Myers on board there.
A Stellar Time at PS Audio
As he did at University, Darren took every opportunity to learn as much as he could as fast as he could. Fortunately, PS Audio turned out to be a very comfortable home for him and he flourished there. One of around nine engineers, there was a lot going on at PS Audio at that time and Darren was very involved in helping to design the company’s multiple new Stellar series of entry-level models.
Darren told me he was directly involved in several Stellar models, including the phono preamplifier, preamplifier, DAC (digital to analog converter), and regenerator (power conditioner). Outside of the Stellar line, Myers told me he designed the Sprout 100, an integrated amplifier that is one of the company’s most successful designs.
PS Audio, Myers told me, was his dream job. “I woke up every day with a smile on my face going to work. I had excellent projects and we had great plans moving forward with projects for me to work on that I was extremely passionate about,” Myers said emphatically.
Time for A New Dream Job
So if PS Audio is Darren’s dream job, why did he leave?
When David Sheriff [new owner of Parasound] came to me to discuss Parasound, I have never really met too many people like him in my life. He stood out to me as someone who really gets the business end of it. The more I talked to him, the more I realized that this was a very rare opportunity for me. The ability to take what is already such a well respected brand – that I’ve always loved – and to have the opportunity to play a big part in transforming that brand and moving it forward with with a talent like David’s, I thought was too rare and too exciting of an opportunity to pass up.
In life, sometimes it’s like the best things come across your lap when you’re least expecting them. I also saw it as an opportunity to push myself and get to the next level where4 I’m playing a larger part in the development of a brand and being able to make the really foundational early decisions in product development.Myers
His Greatest Role Yet
Sheriff appointed Myers Vice President of Research and Development and placed him in charge of researching and creating the brand’s new roadmap moving forward. It is without question the biggest role Darren has ever had in his life. But it is also a role he has spent his entire career up to this point preparing for. His moment had arrived.
Moving to Parasound also offered a unique opportunity for Myers to work virtually side-by-side with renowned amplifier designer John Curl, one of his heroes.
A Smaller But Tighter Team
It is a smaller, tighter team at Parasound, with a total of four engineers including Myers and Curl. John Curl will continue on with the company on his select higher-end amplifier projects. “When it comes down to the design of the components and hardware I would say it is mostly me doing that,” Myers told me. Another Montreal-based engineer is handling programming and embedded design, while another engineer, also based in Montreal, handles layout engineering.
The new VP of R&D told me that in terms of the go-forward roadmap, he has a blank slate and is free to take the brand wherever it needs to go. So I asked him where is Parasound going…product-wise.
We’re Here to Innovate
Let me start off by saying, “We’re here to innovate…not replicate,” Myers proclaimed.
He went on to describe in a somewhat cryptic manner, the three general areas the company will be pursuing with new product. He dubbed these: the John [Curl] side of things…my [Darren] side of things…and the custom integration (CI) side of things.
Parasound has recently rolled out two new amplifiers of John Curl’s design. These include the JC M250 and the A 100 – a new top-of-the-line model for Parasound. Myers told me that the “John side of things” will be more products of this caliber. The A 100 is a pure Class A amplifier that Darren says is a very special design by Curl.
The Custom Integration Side of Things
Myers also pointed to an expanded line of CI products. Parasound is convinced that there is a lot of opportunity for them in this category.
“The CI world is something where, you know, a lot of stuff is seen as just workhorse electronics, and the overall nuances of the performance and what’s gone into them is it’s just not really high-level stuff,” Myers said. “Usually it’s designed to be economical, rather than to deliver ultimate sound quality and we think that we can deliver amplifiers that are a cut above what is currently out there.”
‘I Think We’re a Powerful Force’
Darren said that Parasound has already had some success with its Zone Master line of CI-targeted multi-channel amplifiers that offer a mix of both more power per channel than most competitors…along with higher-quality sound. “They sound remarkably better,” the Parasound VP assured me.
He adds that the company’s VP of Sales Larry Bennett has a lot of experience in the custom integration channel [Bennett previously worked for Control 4]. “Combined with Larry’s knowledge of the holes currently in the market, the nuances of the experience of the dealers, and with my technical knowledge and fidelity – I think we’re a powerful force.”
Something ‘That’s Never Been Said Before’
Things got a little hazier when we got to the “my side of things” which refers to the new models that Darren himself is working on. Here, the VP began to choose his words much more carefully. I think my line of questioning has finally brought us to the secret sauce for the new line.
Myers started with a bold statement – “I would like to start with the fact that we’re actually looking at expanding our product range. So what that means is we are not looking at discontinuing current products. And that’s a pretty big statement and a pretty big release from us. That’s never been said before. We are not wiping the brand clean from a product perspective. We are building on to what is known and what is out there.”
Company Plans Two Very Major and very Bold Initiatives in Future Products
To be clear, that means that all of the new products he’s working on from the new roadmap are either extending existing lines, or expanding into new areas. And Myers tells me these new items are about 24 months away.
At this point in our conversation, Myers paused. We would talk for another 45 minutes…all off the record. The company is not yet ready to announce just where the Parasound line is going. However, I can tell you this. Darren revealed to me two very major and very bold initiatives that he is undertaking for the company. If he is successful, these initiatives could be a very big deal.
A Major Technical Advance; and a Move to Modernized Connectivity & Convenience
The first initiative involves the potential of a dramatic technical advancement via a design breakthrough in an existing technology that will propel a category of products to a greater pinnacle status within the high end community. Unfortunately, that is all I can say. But you will most definitely want to stay tuned to see where Parasound is going with this.
The second initiative involves a complete reconception of the user experience with the system. The company is coming up with a more convenient, more modern solution. Again, this is all that I can say about this, but I think you’ll want to watch for this as well.
Setting the Stage for Industrywide Growth
So, some really interesting things are planned for Parasound’s next chapter in which the company will shore up and build upon the foundation of where the company is at today while taking it into an expanded and exciting new future. Products will exhibit a fresh concept for the user experience – and if all goes according to plan, the company may set the stage for industrywide growth in a foundational product category.
See more about Parasound at: parasound.com.